England under Henry and Wolsey


England under Henry and Wolsey

Henry and his close advisors
Henry VIII inherited his father's council and they shared cautious approach:

  • William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor
  • Richard Fox, Lord Privy Seal
  • John De Vere, Earl of Oxford
  • Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey and Lord Treasurer 

Privy Chamber served different purpose under Henry VIII. 

  • By 1529 Royal finances split between the Chamber and the Privy Purse
  • Privy Chamber gained access to royal signature, known as the sign manual.
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How did Wolsey rise to power?

Most powerful advisor to Henry (alter rex) until fall in 1529. 1498 ordained as a priest and in 1507 he was appointed chaplain to Henry VII. 1510 given a place on Henry VIII's council as an almoner. 

The French expedition
Wolsey exploited the cautious approach. Argued it was the King's wish to see the expedition to be a success. By middle 1514 Henry referring all business matters to Wolsey. 

After expedition, received and made Bishop of Lincoln, Bishop of Tournai and Archbishop of York in 1514. 1515 made Lord Chancellor of England and a Cardinal. 1524 made Legate for life, become most powerful man in England. 

Henry's attitude to Government 
Henry VIII had succeeded peacefully to the throne to a well ordered country. 

A new system of government had emerged. The King-employing a Chief Minister- could act out his own role of Kingship. 

Foreign policy, Henry was the key figure as matters of great concern to the King. 

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How did Wolsey rise to power?

Wolsey's ruthlessness
Exaggerated by his opponents at court who were jealous of the power that Wolsey had gained. Much of this was down to jealousy. 

Domestic policy under Henry and Wolsey
Upheld law and order with a firm hand, without harshness of Henry Vii. Many problems in English society:

  • Taxes high
  • Poverty widespread, squalid conditions 

The Legal System

The Court of Chancery- operated according to 'equity', could give judgement according to own sense of justice. Did not reform the system nor the number of cases rise significantly.

The Court of the Star Chamber- Criminal court, Wolsey used to humble members of the nobility. Wolsey implemented against high and low, cases rose from 12 to 120 a year. 

Wolsey's involvement in the legal system saw a revival in the court system.

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How did Wolsey rise to power?

Henry ambitious foreign policy, difficult for Wolsey to balance the books. 

  • Subsidies- to fund French war, based on income, more you earned, the more you pay. Used again in 1524 for another war against France. 
  • Forced Loans- loans (usually not repaid) used for extra finance and King could ask for them periodically. 1522-23 collected forced loan from nobility.
  • The Amicable Grant- forced loan that Wolsey tried to collect during March and April 1525. High levels of taxation, no approval from parliament led to hostility. Henry withdrew the tax. Wolsey used as scapegoat. 

Finance Wolsey raised a success. From 1513-1529:

  • £325,000 parliamentary subsidies 
  • £118,000 fifteenths and tenths 
  • £250,000 in loans 
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How did Wolsey rise to power?

Relations with Parliament

Wolsey criticised for his attitude towards Parliament and is accused of wanting to dispense with its services altogother. 

Only two parliaments called during this period. 

He summoned a parliament in 1523 when it became clear that there was no other way of raising the large sum of money that he required for his foreign policy in Europe. 

Relations with the Nobility

Wolsey knew that the nobility would have to be kept in check if he was to be successful.

1516 announced what he termed the new law of the Star Chamber- those responsible for administering justice and governing the localities should not see themselves as above the law. 

Some accuse Wolsey of being a tyrant protected only by the trust and influence of the King. However, other nobles considered Wolsey a friend and was no more hostile to the nobility than any King. 

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